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Poem comparison showing relationship between parents and child

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The poems 'On my first Sonne' by Ben Jonson, 'The Affliction of Margaret' by William Wordsworth, 'Catrin' by Gillian Clarke and 'Digging' by Seamus Heaney all show the relationship between parents and their children. 'On my first Sonne' by Ben Jonson uses euphemism by saying "rest in soft peace" to his son to show how he cares about his son and how it is his fault for the death of the child because he says "lent to me, and I thee pay". This shows that he was lent the son from God and now has to pay it back with the son's life. He shows a lot of pain and loss when he says "as what he loves may never like too much" which is Jonson reminding himself of the sin where he loved his son too much and hopes that it will not happen again so that he will not have to go through the same pain again. This shows that the parent had a close relationship with his son as the father loved his son too much and feels a lot of pain at his son's death. Conversely, 'The Affliction of Margaret' by William Wordsworth has language of despair and questioning of where Margaret's son may be and wondering "where art thou, worse to me than dead". This shows how Margaret is thinks that not knowing where her son is, is worse than him being dead and would like the son to "come to me" or "send some tidings" so she doesn't need to worry about where her son is. ...read more.


This juxtaposes with the previous stanza as she thinks of her son being happy in Heaven and then in prison in the stanza afterwards. This could show that even though she loves her son and wants to think happy thoughts about her son, she cannot help but think about the worst possibilities that could happen to her son. In 'Catrin', Gillian Clarke shows images of her memories and her remembering her daughter's birth. She has a metaphor for what keeps her and Catrin close. She describes it as "the tight red rope of love which we both fought over"; the tight red rope could be the umbilical cord as a physical way of keeping Clarke and Catrin together. It could also be seen as the rope that keeps them together mentally, without actually being there. This means that even though they may not have that close relationship, they will always be attached together by the rope. The traffic lights that change colour could be a metaphor that shows the change in labour but also the change in the relationship between mother and daughter. There is also the imagery of the "wild, tender circles" which could be the circle of the child getting away from the mother and then being pulled back. This can be shows when Catrin asks to skate in the dark for another hour to show that she still relies on her mother. ...read more.


The poem also changes in tone from referring to her daughter as "child" to more intimate and personal which shows that their relationship has its ups and downs when they feel separate and other times where they feel together. The tone in 'Digging' shows how he is proud that his "grandfather cut more turf in a day than any other man on Toner's bog" and "by God, the old man could handle a spade. Just like his old man"; this shows his pride that he has a father and a grandfather who are very skilled at digging potatoes and flowers. However, there is also the sense of regret the Heaney is unable to dig like his father and grandfather and will have to do it by writing instead. All four poems show the relationship between parents and children but in different ways. 'On my first Sonne' shows that the parent and child were very close before the son's death as the father wrote a loving epitaph for the son; 'The Affliction of Margaret' shows that the mother is not very close to her son, as the son was willing to go off to war and not tell her where he is for seven years; 'Catrin' shows the relationship between Clarke and Catrin like a circle, both trying to be separate then becoming back together; 'Digging' shows how the relationship between Heaney and his father is quite hard to keep together as he is unable to dig like his father. ...read more.

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Response to the question

This question asks candidates to compare four poems from the AQA Anthology, and the prescribed selection is to select one Seamus Heaney poem, one Gillian Clarke poem, and two poems from the Pre-1914 Poetry Bank. This candidate has chosen 'Digging' ...

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Response to the question

This question asks candidates to compare four poems from the AQA Anthology, and the prescribed selection is to select one Seamus Heaney poem, one Gillian Clarke poem, and two poems from the Pre-1914 Poetry Bank. This candidate has chosen 'Digging' by Heaney, 'Catrin' by Clarke, 'The Affliction of Margaret' by William Wordsworth, and 'On My First Sonne by Ben Jonson. The poems are all valid and lend themselves well to the question proposed as each discuss intergenerational struggles for affection, forgiveness and acceptance. The Response to the Question is interesting, because whilst certainly not the most economical method of essay writing (this essay clearly took longer than the prescribed 1 hour time limit for the exam), almost every aspect is covered in great detail.

For future candidates, it would be recommendable to assign the first 40 minutes discussing the similarities and differences of two poems in detail (preferably the two candidates are most familiar with), commenting on structure, language and themes. After that, 10 minutes should be assigned to the last two poems, noting similarities and differences not just between the two last poems, but all four.

Level of analysis

The Level of Analysis here is exceptional. Almost every aspect required of a GCSE candidate is covered in plenty, if not excessive, detail, and the down side is that the answer is extremely long and not representative of what an hour of exam time can accurately achieve. But even so, this answer comments on a wide variety of appropriate content in the poems, addressing each point and linking back to the question proposed, providing each time, an appropriate quote from the source texts to back up their points.

It might be more effective to distribute the focus on the poems less equally in order to me time constraints, but because this answer delves into such depths about not only the structure, language and themes, but also the context from which the writer's wrote, analysing how the poets own experiences influence their emotions in the poem and how they shape language in order to reflect their feeling to their relatives.

Quality of writing

The Quality of Written Communication is where this essay falls down. As well as not being a particularly conservative method of answering the question, the syntax of the sentences is very clunky and the candidate often repeats themselves unnecessarily. The use of terminology is good ("stanzas", "rhyme scheme"), showing a flair and knowledge for poem analysis and comparison.

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Reviewed by sydneyhopcroft 19/02/2012

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